The Green Bay Packers took care of their biggest 2016 free agent priority when they re-signed defensive end Mike Daniels during the season. They further solidified their defensive line by re-signing Letroy Guion last week.
Their remaining free agent priorities start and end with kicker Mason Crosby.
That’s not to say the Packers won’t re-sign anyone other than Crosby, just that they don’t need to re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents other than Crosby.
We’ve made the case for Crosby before, but the short of it is this. Good kickers are hard to find and Crosby is a good kicker who performs in cold weather and the playoffs.
Those are two places the Packers regularly play games.
The Packers have stuck by Crosby for nine seasons and he’s been bad in just one of those (2012). There’s no reason for them to venture into the unknown and try to find another kicker now.
And while this negotiation may get complicated, it should ultimately get done.
As for everyone else, here’s the list of unrestricted free agents.
- Mike Neal
- Sean Richardson
- Nick Perry
- James Starks
- Andrew Quarless
- B.J. Raji
- Don Barclay
- Scott Tolzien
- Casey Hayward
- Brett Goode
- John Kuhn
- James Jones
The players on that list fall into one of four categories.
Good riddance: Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless, Don Barclay
Replacement already on the team: B.J. Raji (Guion), Scott Tolzien (Brett Hundley), Casey Hayward (Quinten Rollins), Brett Goode (Rick Lovato), John Kuhn (Aaron Ripkowski), James Jones (Jordy Nelson)
Career over because of injury: Sean Richardson
Easily replaceable: Nick Perry, James Starks
The last category is the only one that offers some intrigue.
Starks had a career year in 2015, with 993 combined rushing and receiving yards. He’s also about to be 30 and could probably be replaced by someone more accomplished, like Matt Forte, or someone younger, like Ronnie Hillman.
In short, the free agent running back market is loaded. Plus, there’s always the draft and the Packers have John Crockett hanging around.
Perry is in a different position.
The Packers have a shortage of outside linebackers. They’re going to move Clay Matthews back outside and pair him with Julius Peppers, but Peppers is no longer an every-down player.
Currently, the Packers only have Jayrone Elliott and Andy Mulumba behind Matthews and Peppers.
The Packers need bodies and even though Neal somehow got more snaps in 2015, Perry was the better player. In approximately half the snaps, Perry put up almost the same stat line as Neal.
Perry had 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2015. Neal had 36 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble.
Neal played 845 snaps. Perry played 411.
As we said, the Packers could find someone in free agency or the draft and not re-sign either of these guys. They’d be just fine if they did, but if they do re-sign one of them, Perry is clearly the better option.
It’s really a situation of get Crosby done and then sit back and see what happens at this point, though.